Psalm 44 With a Side of Frustration

Psalm 44 With a Side of Frustration

I read Psalm 44 from my Bible Chair this morning.

When I moved into my 3rd floor apartment last July, I knew that I needed a chair. And not just any chair. I needed the chair, the one that I would sit in for all of my greatest thinking and reading in the year to come. So, naturally, I hit up my local Goodwill Outlet. (In case you didn’t know, Goodwill actually has an outlet where all of the Goodwill rejects go. No joke. It is easily my favorite store. You wheel garbage bins around and buy everything for $1.39 a pound. It’s fabulous.)

During one of my routine visits last summer, I found it. Sitting right there. My Bible Chair. I just knew it. It emanated a sharp odor of cat pee, had upholstery from the 90’s, and was covered in animal hair. It was perfect.

20 dollars later, I was lugging my newfound treasure up three flights of stairs and setting it down in the middle of my empty living room, next to an office chair, which was my only other item of furniture. After a quick visit to Walmart, with odor and stain remover in hand, I spent the better part of the afternoon washing and cutting and vacuuming the thing to death. It was honestly the most fun I had had in a while.

(In case you were wondering, I have also bought two end tables from the Goodwill Outlet for 2 dollars a piece. I’m telling you, it’s a magical place.)

Now, as you know, it’s March. I have spent all year working in elementary school fundraising, which mainly means my life is one big hectic dance party, which some days I love and some days I’d rather stay in bed. As I have precariously balanced my introverted/extroverted self from day to day, coddling myself when I can’t stand to see another person or have another conversation, my chair has become a haven.

My Bible Chair is, of course, the chair in which I read my Bible. Although, honestly, it’s the chair where I eat my dinner, watch my K-dramas, work on my spanish on Duolingo, and call my mom. Or, in other words, it’s the chair in which I recharge. It may be the introvert in me, but sitting there, in my robe, with a cup of coffee on my $2 end table and Bible in my lap, I feel like I can take on the world.

But, as I read and journal and take moments to unwind, sometimes my chair is also the place where I feel the deepest emotions. It’s where I get rid of distractions and I ask myself what’s really going on. And, consequently, it can be the place where I feel the most abandoned by God because I allow myself to ask Him the most important questions and pray the most important prayers. And as I reflect on where He has brought me in these past few years, sometimes I just want to look at Him and be like “Where the heck did you go??”

I thought of this as I read Psalm 44 this morning, because that’s exactly what the psalmist is asking, too. (Maybe he also had a Bible Chair.)

O God, we have heard with our ears,

our fathers have told us,

what deeds you performed in their days,

in the days of old…

He was always told of how God delivered His people and how He went with them.

In God we have boasted continually,

and we will give thanks to your name forever.

He has stood by the name of God. He has even boasted to those in his life about how God is for him and has stood by him.

But you have rejected us and disgraced us

and have not gone out with our armies…

You have made us like sheep for slaughter

and have scattered us among the nations.

Whoa. What a bold statement. God, of course, has not actually sent His people off to be sheep in a slaughter, but the writer obviously feels like He has. And I get that.

Our heart has not turned back,

nor have our steps departed from your way;

you you have broken us in the place of jackals

and covered us with the shadow of death.

As I read this psalm this morning, I cannot help but understand. I get where the psalmist is coming from. Have you ever felt like God has just completely abandoned you? Or that He sent you somewhere only to watch you be devoured?

I definitely felt that way during my first year in South Carolina. When I was 16, I would sing along with everyone else:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,

let me walk upon the waters wherever you have called me.”

And when I graduated college, it became my moment to go out in faith and trust God with my future. And when I did, life began to grab hold of me like I was the punching bag. (Or, at least, it felt that way.) I was wrecked. I couldn’t stop crying. I was doing a fellowship program through a church, but I had never felt further away from God. I was depressed. I had to get back on my anti-depressant. I was sobbing in coffee shops. And I felt just like the psalmist felt:

But you have rejected us and disgraced us

and have not gone out with our armies.

The psalmist ends with a statement:

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?

Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!

It reminds me so much of the story of Jesus calming the sea. There was a tremendous storm and Jesus and His best buds were on a boat. Naturally, the disciples were freaking out, but Jesus was sleeping. He was just taking a nap while the boat was about to capsize. And I love that.

I love that, as I scream at the sky and demand God to do something, He is undeterred. God has not been absent in my trials in life. He has been right beside me. He has simply known that He was going to bring me through them. In fact, I believe that He knew He shouldn’t save me from them because they are all in my life for a reason.

And now I have a million stories and a million lessons that I have been given through my hardest trials. As I sit in my Bible Chair, I cannot help but feel them all circle me in an embrace full of depth and wisdom and adventure, and for that I am thankful.

A Shameless Plug For Counseling

A Shameless Plug For Counseling

I’ll be honest – this post is mainly just a shameless plug for counseling. But I don’t care.

It took me 16 months to decide to find a counselor post-college. I wish it had taken me 2 months, but alas here we are. It’s funny how stubborn I get whenever I need help in life, especially mentally or emotionally. Or spiritually. I will truly convince myself that I’m fine for, well, 16 months before doing anything about it.

But a month ago I finally broke down and googled enough and found a name of a counselor that I prayed would listen to my story and see through my craziness and love me. And yesterday was our second time meeting together.

I hate driving to a counseling appointment because I spent all week closing up and trying to convince people I was fine about certain things, but I know that it would be a waste of my time and money to do that in front of Sarah (not my real counselor’s name, but that’s what I’ll call her). I remember that I have to let down walls, and I’m always pretty sure I’m gonna cry and I’m usually not in the mood to be emotional about the sad stuff I’ve been trying to shut out.

Counseling is hard work but it’s worth it.

This was actually a huge week for me. A really exciting opportunity came my way and it has been a week of celebrating that and being with those that I love. But this great opportunity will also mean a lot of change in my life, and deep down that has gnawed at me.

So when I sat down yesterday at 3 p.m. on the grey plushy couch in her office and Sarah asked me what my week was like, I truly couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Instead, I hugged a throw pillow to my chest and stared at the blinds on the windows behind her and mumbled some stuff about it being fine. And then it hit me and I was like, “Oh my gosh, wait how did I forget this happened?” And I began to tell her about this new opportunity in my life and how it was so exciting.

But I didn’t look excited or sound excited. In fact, I felt like I had become a piece of cardboard – flat and brown and dry. Emotionless, even in the face of huge exciting news in my life.

The great thing about counselors is that they don’t let you get away with that kind of stuff. So Sarah dug in and started asking me what was up. This was a great thing in my life – why am I talking about it like someone died? What’s really going on?

It took me about 45 minutes to answer that question because I didn’t really know. Or, at least, the answer was so complicated that it took that long to reach any sort of explanation. I started to realize that, although this new opportunity was something I had been dreaming of for years, now that it’s here the change it will bring into my life scares me. And, I began to realize through tears, it scares me because the last huge change I went through in my life was harder than I ever let on to anyone else.

I want to share with you my journal entry from this morning because I thought maybe it was just honest enough and maybe you need that in your life today. It talks a lot about the post-college fellowship program I did last year and the internship I had at a ministry at the time.

I cried at counseling yesterday, and then sobbed in the Chipotle parking lot afterwards.

Sarah asked me about my week. At first, I forget about what even happened this week which was crazy because I actually got some super exciting news. But counseling, in all it’s glory, brought emotion out of me where there was only numbness. In my heart and mind, I know I have always downplayed just how hard my fellows year was for me. I was so depressed for some of it. I was in really bad shape. But while it was happening and even now, I just block it out and downplay it. Out of survival, I think. While I was in the fellows program, I just wanted to survive it. Failing the fellows meant moving back home and admitting that I couldn’t make it.

I know that I struggled with honesty all those 9 months. From the first day, I struggled being honest. Through meeting all the new people to starting my internship to going to classes, I was smiling (sometimes) on the outside, but truly dying on the inside.

I’ll never forget one day at my internship, about a month into the program and my life-after-college. I had spent the last month smiling and being brave and learning street names and deciding to be strong through it all, and that morning at my desk at work I finally quieted down and realized I had never been so numb in my life. I wrote my name on an email and it scared me to realize I hardly even recognized my own name. I had spent so much time putting on a face for everyone in this town that when it finally settled down a bit I realized I had absolutely no idea how to talk to myself. I hadn’t been honest with myself in months. I didn’t even recognize the sound of my own voice or my own name or my own face in the mirror.

That’s a core memory, me sitting in that office feeling that way. And it began the rocky relationship I’ve had with myself and God ever since. I knew I had a choice that day. Do I break down and show honesty about how I really felt living in a new city and doing this fellowship program? Which probably would have included calling a sick day and going to my car and dialing my mom and breaking down in sobs because of how deeply overwhelmed I was. Or, the other option, which I took, do I just suck it up and move forward?

I wish I had called in sick and scheduled a counselor and not numbed myself out during that first year in South Carolina. But I know why I didn’t. It’s because that is so hard to do. It is so much “easier” to numb out and move forward. You feel stronger and braver and more capable to do the overwhelming task in front of you.

And so that’s why that day at work I wasn’t honest. Honesty was the scariest option I had. But because I wasn’t honest, I created a core memory that is ambiguous and lonely and numb. And now, 15 months later, I’m trying to breathe life into it.

Maybe you’re not like me and you read that and think I’m the most dramatic person on the planet. That’s fine, because I know that everyone has different levels of emotions hardwired into them.

But maybe you are like me, and maybe you also have the kind of emotions that demand to be felt. I have learned that I was simply made that way, and it means I need to tend to those emotions because I become sick when I don’t. I would encourage you to practice raw honesty and lean into the pain when it’s real and happening right in front of you, like I’m trying to do now.

That’s exactly what counseling is for. I’m sure I’ll write more about my time in Sarah’s office because right now it’s the tool that God is using to bring health back into my mental, emotional and spiritual life.